Friday, May 17, 2013

"I'm Always Sick" - Do I have an autoimmune disorder?

The term "autoimmune disorder" is often used on television commercials, medical surveys, and in physician-patient communications. So what exactly is an autoimmune disorder, and how do you know if you may have an autoimmune disorder that has not yet been diagnosed?

Our body's immune system is very complex. Many different cells, including the white blood cells (e.g. B cells and T cells), help fight off pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi) that enter our body. You might want to think of the analogy of a professional boxer. When the pathogen (our body's opponent) enters the boxing ring, our immune system's goal is to defeat this opponent at all costs. However, for individuals with autoimmune disorders, their immune system has a weakened ability to recognize the "bad guys" from the "good guys." That is, the immune system even attacks and destroys healthy body tissue within the body.

There are many different types of autoimmune disorders, each with unique symptoms, due to the various organs and tissues that can be affected. However, some of the most common symptoms include tiredness, dizziness, and a general sense of being ill. Physicians often diagnose an autoimmune disorder through the use of a complete physical, autoantibody tests, various blood tests, and organ function tests. While there is no cure for autoimmune disorders, the good news is that they are treatable, and many patients only experience periodic "flare-ups" when properly controlled. Some of the most common autoimmune disorders include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Grave's disease.

For more information, visit the PubMed Health page for autoimmune disorders, at: